I posted a family picture yesterday, taken the year before Matty died. A former colleague and someone who had kindly reached out to me after his death, having experienced the sudden loss of her own partner years before, commented. She said, ‘people say it’s just as well we don’t know what’s ahead’ and that she was unsure how she felt about that. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it either and I’ve thought about it much since.
I look at that picture and many others like it and with hindsight can only have compassion for our former selves. We are smiling and yet we have no idea how our lives are about to be derailed. We are oblivious to the fear and grief and sadness that will become a part of the fabric of our lives. If someone had been able to stop time in the seconds before that snapshot had been taken and tell us what would happen, would it have changed anything? Would I have wanted them to tell me?
Some of you may have heard of Bronnie Ware who wrote about the top 5 regrets of the dying. Her observations, seem as close as we might get to knowing of our mortality and what it might compel us to think or do differently.
The top 5 regrets were…
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The themes within her writing were gathered from the testimonies of people who were ill, but had the benefit of time to consider what they had done with their one precious life . Most of us never stop to reflect. And thankfully, our experience of sudden loss is the exception.
However, now that we have been dealt this card, I recognise a shift in my thinking and attitude. I have embraced letting go of long held expectations I had for my career. I now work with more ease, autonomy and purpose. I use writing as a way to express my feelings and help others too. I hold dear my friends and family, with the knowledge that one day things will change and I recognise happiness as a daily choice.
I think to answer my own question, I wouldn’t have wanted to know what would happen to us back then. And neither would I want to know what is ahead of us now. That said, what Mattys death has done, is to teach me the lesson that though there are things we cannot control in our future, we also have a hand in creating our own reality. Embrace that now. Because one day, life will surely be different.